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Re-Envisioning Egypt 1919-1952$
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Arthur Goldschmidt and Amy J. Johnson

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9789774249006

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774249006.001.0001

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The Cairo Fire of 26 January 1952 and the Interpretations of History

The Cairo Fire of 26 January 1952 and the Interpretations of History

(p.194) 7 The Cairo Fire of 26 January 1952 and the Interpretations of History
Re-Envisioning Egypt 1919-1952

Anne-Claire Kerbœuf

American University in Cairo Press

This chapter shifts from state institutions' functions in creating collective memory to the political and ideological role of a decisive event, the 26 January 1952 Cairo fire. The fire discredited the regime, prepared the way for coup six months later, and has been passionately debated by Egyptian journalists and historians. Through new evidence and fresh interpretation, this chapter argues that more than political plotting or elite intrigue, the Cairo fire manifested mass nationalist protest and was the first blow to the regime for reasons still under-appreciated. In an insightful demonstration of ways the pre-'Abd al-Nasser years are variously remembered in Egypt, this chapter illuminates how the nostalgia of today's “liberal elite” for the former Belle Époque motivates them to commemorate the fire as the dramatic end of the monarchy, and not as a mass revolutionary day heralding the delegitimation of the Egyptian elites themselves.

Keywords:   Cairo fire, Egyptian journalists, nationalist protest, Belle Époque, monarchy, Egyptian elites

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